Build Your Own Alien Instruments

Build Your Own Alien Instruments

“We send probes into deep space to listen to alien worlds. But alien world’s aren’t always that far away.” – Reed Ghazala

I recently finished reading Circuit-Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments. This is probably the easiest, and quickest way to get you up to speed in the field of Circuit-Bending. Reed Ghazala, the internationally recognized “Father of Circuit-Bending,” provides a concise compendium of most issues that will arise during your alien spelunking adventures.

Is this book for you?

Depends. For myself, the book was absolutely worth it. My background is mostly digital. The text introduced me to very rudimentary skills required to build these instruments. Skills such as: soldering, quasi-electronics, drilling, painting, etc… If you can already do these things, even on a basic level, you might not get much from these chapters.

Where this book truly excels is Ghazala’s personal insight and experience. His writing is candid, humorous at times, and allows the reader to get a glimpse of how his thought process works. In many ways, this book is more than just a DIY guide. It is also about composing through the process of electronic experimentation.

In other words, good stuff.

Part of Get Bent.

My First Victim

first victim

The scene of the crime

I bent my first circuit this Saturday, with limited success.

The victim was a cheap-o $5 keyboard from walmart. Opening it up was as easy as removing the screws. What I found inside was very little in terms of electronic components. There were two long narrow boards that acted as the controllers for the buttons and keys. And then there was this tiny little square where all the “stuff” happened.

Connecting the limited set of dots I had to work with, I found three distinct circuit bending functions: The sound stopped, a popping sound came out of the speaker (which is bad), and the rate at which the samples played back increased by ten-fold. So I soldered a toggle to the only pair of interesting dots on the board. The end. Being useless, I’ll go back and reclaim my toggle.

What did I learn? Uninteresting toys can make for uninteresting bent instruments. Newer toys are probably much more efficient in design, thus having fewer circuits to bend. Don’t touch the hot part of a soldering iron.

Part of Get Bent

Thumbuki Presents: Get Bent

Circuit Board

From what I’ve read, bending capacitors of this magnitude might blow your fingers off. Or at minimum, learn you real quick never do that again.

Love noise? Love toys? Perhaps circuit bending is for you./

To celebrate Thumbuki’s soft launch, we’re kicking off our our first original series: Get Bent

And by original series, I mean I’m personally going to be doing research on “circuit bending” over the next few weeks, and sharing my findings with you. I will post here the top relevant links, video, tutorials, historical accounts, etc, as I find them.

What is circuit bending? According to wikipedia:

“Circuit bending is the creative short-circuiting of low voltage, battery-powered electronic audio devices such as guitar effects, children’s toys and small synthesizers to create new musical instruments and sound generators. “

Also check out this video example of circuit bending by James Anderson.

As for me, I have zero hands-on experience with electronics. Though I do have some familiarity with everything from modular synthesizers to Csound. So I plan on getting very used to the idea of holding a soldering iron in the near future. I will be reporting back to you all of my successes and all of my failures as I turn children toys into little electronic frankensteins. For art’s sake.